Bath v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' match preview

Fixture: Bath v Northampton Saints

Thursday, 8th March 2018, 2:00 pm
Piers Francis kicked all nine points in Saints' defeat at Bath last month (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Competition: Anglo-Welsh Cup (semi-final)Venue: The Rec, BathDate and kick-off time: Friday, March 9, 2018, 7.45pmTelevision coverage: BT Sport 1Referee: Adam Jones (Wales)Most recent meeting: Friday, February 9, 2018: Bath 32 Saints 9 (Aviva Premiership)Tom's preview: It's sink or swim time for the Saints players on Friday night following the collective criticism they received after Sale Sharks submerged them at Franklin's Gardens last Saturday.The squad have been told straight that the first-half showing against the Sharks was far from acceptable.In fact, Alan Gaffney went as far as to describe it as 'absolutely abysmal', 'depressing', 'pathetic' and 'immature' and said his side looked like they thought they were 'playing in the Las Vegas sevens tournament'.Those stern words can either be taken on board and ignored.But if Saints are to secure some semi-final joy this week, it will have to be the former.Ken Pisi and Cobus Reinach were the men on media duty this week, insisting that the stinging criticism the team received can only be a good thing.They believe it will drive standards to ensure there is no slow start at The Rec this week.Saints actually came out of the blocks quickly the last time they went to Bath, bossing the opening 20 minutes of the Aviva Premiership meeting a month ago.But a Matt Banahan try before half-time broke their resistance and it was one-way traffic in the direction of the Northampton line from then on.Saints must have learned lessons from that showing and they will undoubtedly be talking about taking their chances early this time round.If they can get on top, they can get some crucial confidence coursing through the veins.And as they have showed during spirited fightbacks since the turn of the year, they are a good side when they have a bit of belief about them.Their most recent away match saw them push Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs all the way at Sandy Park.And it took two tries in the final 10 minutes for the Chiefs to secure a 31-30 success.That, and the defeat to Sale, has hurt Saints.But now they must find a way to channel that disappointment and those Gaffney words into a hugely positive performance, and a win, this week.If they can, a Kingsholm final and a shot at Anglo-Welsh Cup glory will beckon nine days later.Tom's prediction: Bath 25 Saints 28

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